28 Apr

The Oh-I-Never-Measure-Anything Cook

The term is not mine; I’ve nicked it from Nigel Slater. In his book Eating for England, he gave a perfect description of my friend Sally. Loving her as much as I do (and I do love her a lot, down to her endearing way of saying ‘triffick’ and ‘oeufcurse’ for terrific and of course), she is an infuriatingly fantastic cook.

Let me quote Mr Slater: “These are the cooks who glide around the kitchen with a certain calm, whose cakes always rise and who make everything look like so little trouble. […] Her kitchen is always slightly untidy, but warm and welcoming, and the food is perhaps a little bit too calorific […]. There is always, always wine with every meal. And often quite a lot of it afterwards too.”

I swear Nigel has met Sally, so to speak, not in the same way Harry did, ‘oeufcurse’. Sally is just like her cooking: warm, generous, and enormous fun. She once threw a piece of lamb in the AGA with a bit of this and a bit of that, and it came out as the most succulent Moroccan tajine I have ever tasted in my life. Envious, moi? You bet I am, and not just a little bit. I crave Sally’s abilities to turn everything she touches into culinary gold. But sadly for me, the OINMA cooks are born, not made.


Le nom n’est pas le mien; je l’ai emprunté à Nigel Slater. Dans son livre Eating for England, il donne une parfaite description de mon amie Sally. Même si je l’aime bien (et je l’aime beaucoup, jusqu’à sa façon de prononcer certains mots anglais avec un faux accent français), elle m’agace aussi,  tellement elle est bonne cuisinière.

Mais laissez-moi traduire M. Slater: “Ce sont les cuisiniers qui glissent à travers leur cuisine avec un certain calme, dont les gâteaux gonflent toujours et pour qui rien n’est jamais trop demander. […] Sa cuisine est toujours un peu en désordre, mais chaude et accueillante, et ses plats font peut-être un peu trop grossir […]. Il y a toujours, toujours du vin à chaque repas. Et souvent encore un peu après aussi.’

Je jure que Nigel a rencontré Sally, pour ainsi dire, mais pas de la même façon dont Harry le fit. Sally ressemble à sa cuisine: chaude, généreuse, et tellement fun. Je l’ai vue un jour jeter un morceau d’agneau avec un peu de ci et un peu de ça dans le four et le transformer en tajine marocaine, la meilleure que j’aie jamais mangée. Jaloux, moi? C’est clair, et pas qu’un peu. J’aimerais tant être comme Sally, capable de transformer tout ce qu’elle touche en or gastronomique. Mais malheureusement pour moi, les CQNPR ne se forment pas, ils sont nés comme ça.

11 Nov

Salted or not, here I come!

I’m talking butter, here. Like Marmite, this issue divides the nation. Let me be clear from the start: it is salted for me, end of. I love the stuff. I guess it’s the Breton in me, making me think that this predisposition is genetic. To be honest, I don’t recall which type of butter was used at home in my early years, but I have a feeling it was beurre doux and not the beurre salé I invariably use on my tartines now.

Of course, baking and cooking use a lot of unsalted butter, and I am going with the flow there, although I stubbornly use my favourite brand of salted butter to create the perfect garlic butter for my world famous(-ish) escargots.

My problem lies in restaurants. To me, even the best of butters, like Echiré, is incomplete without the crunchy flakes of sea salt I’m obviously addicted to. That’s where the salt and pepper set comes in handy. While I trust the chef implicitly as far as the seasoning of my meal is concerned, I simply cannot do without salted butter. Do I then breach restaurant etiquette if I spread some butter on bread and then salt it myself? I would never dream of doing it as a guest at your table, so why do I do it at the chef’s? It’s a mystery, but the stomach wants what it wants…